The “IBD & Ostomy Awareness Ribbon” is more than a ribbon… it's a movement to honor the estimated 1.6 million Americans living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and nearly one million people with an ostomy in the United States.
This Ribbon’s mission is two-fold. The design and color combination – a rich, dark brown color with cream colored lettering and a small red crystal (representing a stoma) – jump starts conversation which builds awareness. In addition to educating the general public about IBD and ostomies, its goal is to reverse the negative perception of having a bowel disease or living with an ostomy through empowerment and acceptance. “IBD and ostomy surgery have been surrounded by shame, silence and embarrassment for too long. It’s time to allow us to come out of the bathroom and into the living room to talk freely and openly about what we’re going through,” says co-founder Lois Fink.
The Ribbon has a dedicated global following on Facebook and Twitter, and has traveled throughout the United States, Australia, Canada, Malta, and England! Individuals like Mike McCready, lead guitarist for Pearl Jam, support the Ribbon, as well as ostomy nurses and health care providers who serve the IBD and ostomy patient population. The Canadian CCFA’s Youth Organization loves the Ribbon and featured Lois on their Gutsy Generation blog, as an inspirational woman making a difference. The Ribbon was also featured in two national magazines, on television and radio in the Seattle area, and was exhibited at the 44th Wound Ostomy Continent Nurses Society’s National Conference. In the words of WOC nurse, Yvonne M. Martineau, “I wear my ribbon proudly at work each day!”
The Ribbon was created in 2011 by two women who wanted to make a difference in IBD and ostomy awareness.
Author and motivational speaker, Lois Fink who lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado had symptoms of Crohn’s since the age of 10. Misdiagnosed by numerous physicians as “nervous,” she underwent emergency appendectomy surgery in high school and woke up with a Crohn’s diagnosis. Despite aggressive steroid therapy, a restrictive diet, and more colorectal surgery, the disease progressed over the next 17 years. In 1986, Lois finally made the decision to have permanent ileostomy surgery, and says she wished she’d made that decision sooner.
“Sadly, there are many fears surrounding this surgery, which are often made worse by the perceptions fostered in the media. Because of these fears, some people would rather die than live a full, active life with an ostomy.”
– Lois Fink
Barb Wodzin, from Seattle, Washington was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1997 after six months of tests. Exhausted from hours spent in the bathroom with persistent problems, Barb was forced to take a leave of absence from her job. It took a full year of treatment before she began to feel well and see her symptoms begin to lessen. “IBD support groups were a huge help,” she says. “It was so great to meet people who understood the pain and embarrassment of this disease. The awareness Ribbon will help spread the word and gets people talking.” Today Barb volunteers with various advocacy projects, lives an active life and her disease is in remission.
Here’s where you can get your own IBD & Ostomy Awareness Ribbon.
Lois will be a guest speaker on August 24th at the UOAA National Conference where she’ll be handing out the "IBD & Ostomy Awareness Ribbon" for free. She’ll also be available for a book signing for, Courage Takes Guts: Lessons Learned from a Lost Colon. In this inspiring read, Lois shares stories about her battle with Crohn's disease and how fulfilling her life has been after having ostomy surgery. Her mission is to help patients find the strength and perspective to confront their illness and move beyond it.